EPO: From Kyoto to Paris - Inventions in climate change mitigation technologies growing strongly

Press release Paris/Munich, 8 December 2015

  • New report finds number of inventions in sustainable technologies worldwide increased almost fivefold between 1995 and 2011
  • First comprehensive analysis of patent and economic data on CCMTs in Europe
  • Europe produces 18% of the world’s CCMT inventions, and 40% of the “high-value" inventions where patent protection is sought in more than one country
  • Public policies appear to have triggered development of CCMT inventions which are helping to decarbonise the economy
  • EPO President Battistelli: “The patent system has an important role to play in encouraging research, development and innovation, as well as supporting trade and investment flows, and the transfer of new climate change mitigation technologies across regions."

A new study conducted by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that inventions in climate change mitigation technologies have seen a fivefold increase worldwide between 1995 and 2011. It also finds that Europe is a leading region for low-carbon inventions.

“New technologies are urgently needed to tackle the global challenge of climate change," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “The report shows that in combination with clear legislation and policies to promote climate-change mitigation technologies, the patent system can support research, development and innovation in this field, as well as boosting trade and investment flows, and the transfer of these new technologies to other regions."

Green technologies on the rise

Presented at the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 organised alongside the UNFCC COP 21 in Paris, the report finds that the number of inventions in climate change mitigation technologies (CCMTs) worldwide has risen steadily since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 (see Graph 1: A boom in green tech inventions). This suggests that the implementation of climate change policies has helped stimulate innovation in CCMTs. The growth in low-carbon inventions has been much faster than in other technologies; today they represent nearly 6% of all of the world’s inventions, up from 2% in 1995. Public policies put in place after the Kyoto Protocol signing appear to have been particularly successful in encouraging the development of CCMTs in Europe. As a result, the carbon intensity of Europe’s GDP has fallen by 30% in the past decades (Graph 2: CCMT inventions and CO2 intensity in Europe), and has been the lowest in the developed world since 2000.

A marketplace for CCMTs

The study shows that Europe is among the leaders in technical advances towards a low-carbon economy. The region produces nearly one fifth of all low-carbon inventions in the world. Looking at “high-value" inventions (those with higher economic potential, for which patent protection is sought in more than one country), Europeans account for nearly two-fifths.

Europe’s contribution to global inventive efforts is very significant across all CCMT areas (Graph 3: European CCMT inventions by technology). Most CCMT inventions in Europe (and also worldwide) are made in the clean energy and transport sectors, followed by buildings. When comparing CCMT inventions with inventions in all areas of technology, Europe has become increasingly specialised since 1995, and is now among the most advanced regions in the world in low-carbon technologies.

Six countries account for more 80% of all European inventions in sustainable technologies; Germany leads, with almost half of Europe’s CCMT inventions, followed by France, the UK, Italy, Sweden and Spain (Graph 4: European CCMT inventions by country). Allowing for economic size, Germany is still ahead, followed by Sweden, France, Finland, Austria and Denmark (Graph 5: European CCMT inventions per GDP by country). Meanwhile other countries, including Greece and Portugal, also show high degrees of technological specialisation in CCMTs (Graph 6: Degree of technological specialisation in CCMTs of European countries).

Europe is also strong in trade of low-carbon goods; it is the biggest importer and second-largest exporter of CCMT products during the analysed period. At the same time, the region acts as a major source of Foreign Direct Investment in CCMTs, with investment spanning all continents. The study shows that cross-border patent filings go hand in hand with trade and foreign investment in CCMTs, which encourages international technology transfer of CCMTs through these channels.

A comprehensive source of information on green tech

Patent trends and statistics can give powerful and important early indications of technological and economic developments. In response to demand from organisations active in climate-change issues, the EPO has developed a dedicated tagging scheme for patent documents relating to climate change mitigation technologies. This greatly increases transparency and enables users – whether companies, engineers, scientists, institutions or policy-makers – to better access and use the wealth of information available in the EPO's free patent databases. The new scheme, also in combination with patent statistics tools (such as the EPO’s PATSTAT), makes it possible to map sustainable technologies, identify trends and derive facts and evidence on which to base policy and business decisions. The EPO has just completed this patent classification scheme, which now covers all CCMTs, including energy, carbon capture, and low-carbon inventions in buildings, transport, production, waste and smart grids. To date, the databases contain some 2.8 million documents related to sustainable technologies – the biggest single repository of low carbon technologies in the world.

EPO-UNEP: shedding light on the debate

In order to facilitate an informed debate about the role of patents in the development and deployment of sustainable technologies, the EPO and UNEP have worked together closely since 2009 on a series of joint studies looking at patent filing trends in CCMTs. The latest report "Climate change mitigation technologies in Europe – evidence from patent and economic data" follows three previous reports: "Patents and climate change mitigation technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean" (2014), "Patents and clean energy technologies in Africa" (2013) and "Patents and clean energy technologies" (2010).


  • Full report: Climate change mitigation technologies in Europe – evidence from patent and economic data (December 2015)
  • Executive summary of the report (EN/FR/DE)
  • Infographic (EN): Green technologies: how inventive is Europe?
  • Brochure (short summary of Europe report): Five facts about climate change, innovation and the role of patents (EN)
  • Brochure (summary of all EPO-UNEP reports): Patents and climate change mitigation technologies: evidence to support policy (EN)

About the EPO

With some 7 000 employees, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest European public service institutions. Its headquarters are in Munich and it also has offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna. The EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through its centralised patent granting procedure, inventors can obtain patent protection in up to 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation. The EPO is also the world's leading public authority for patent searches and information.

Press contacts:
Jana Mittermaier
Spokesperson/Director External Relations
European Patent Office
Tel: +49 89/23 99 - 1800
Mobile: +49 151 44022118

Rainer Osterwalder
Press Spokesperson/Director Media Relations
European Patent Office
Tel: +49 89/23 99 - 1820
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Latest update 09.12.2015